WE NEED STU!
You can really make a game of it.
Think of all the businesses that have come and gone in the Village at Mammoth since it opened in May, 2003.
Hennessey’s, Restaurant Lulu, Munchkins, Gallerie Barjur, Lingerie Lounge, Ben and Jerry’s, Dublin’s/Fever, Hyde … I could go on if my memory weren’t shot.
And then there’s that low-key Kiwi with the Tiki Bar at the far end of the boardwalk. His name is Stu Need. And in the Mammoth version of Survivor, he’s one of the last ones whose loincloth is still intact.
We caught up with Stu this week at his restaurant, Lakanuki, where we commiserated over Dakota Painkillers.
Sheet: What’s the key to survival in the restaurant business in this town?
Stu: Having a good, consistent staff, and treating the best ones well. Otherwise, someone else will take them.
Sheet: And how do you fit into the equation?
Stu: I was a little younger then. Confident. And I had no debt. That was important. I sank my savings into it at the outset versus financing even though I knew the odds were long.
Risk will keep you up and motivated every day.
Sheet: I’ve never seen you upset. Do you get upset?
Stu: It takes a lot. I’ve got a long fuse.
*Later, he talked about a time where he was genuinely upset. We’ll get to it. It involves someone showing up late to work.
Sheet: What’s your current state of mind?
Stu: I’m excited at the current direction. We’ve got a great bar manager in jeremy and a great kitchen manager in Jehoshaphat. And the bar is becoming kitschy again. We’ve almost become … a Mammoth institution at this point.
Sheet: You ever think about what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing this?
Stu: I don’t know. I don’t have any other skills. When something breaks in the house, Lynn says hire someone to fix it before you hurt yourself. But seriously, if I ever walk in here and I hate it, it’s time to move on. But that hasn’t happened yet, and it’s not in my nature to hate things.
Sheet: Speaking of Lynn, what’s the key to a successful marriage?
Stu: Lynn’s the rock and the brains of the outfit. Just say yes and fall into line.
The couple has two children: Koa (14) and Lainie (17). Both work at the restaurant. Koa’s on the fryer; Lainie’s a food runner.
Stu: The kids see a different side of me here. I’m not Dad. I’m the boss.
Speaking of which … the angry Stu part.
His daughter Lainie was late for work one day. Dad called home to figure out where she was. Still in bed.
She finally hustles in. There had been a heavy snow the night before. Stu didn’t let her clock in. Shovel the deck first, he said.
The wind was blowing. Shoveling the deck was a Sisyphean task. Thirty minutes pass. Forty minutes.
Finally, a fellow employee goes out to the deck to help.
Eventually she gets to clock in.
And of course, you can’t do this with a normal staffer. You’d probably get sued for a labor violation. But for Stu, being family means expectations are even higher.
She hasn’t been late since.
The Dakota Painkiller is named after an Air Force pilot who lives in Bishop. “His son used to work for us,” says Stu.
It’s part of the new drink menu. And it just makes you appreciate a good cocktail.
“Rum is just a wonderful drink for someone out to have a good time,” says Stu. “We serve happiness with an umbrella.” And they are served in a portion size which Stu would describe as “amorous.”
Stu is such a fan of Jeremy’s and the new menu that he even went out and got a $2,000 slush maker.
“Who else has a slush maker?” he asks with a rhetorical grin. “A slush maker is a key indicator of a bar owner who is truily committed to his customers.”
About the name. It’s pretty self-explanatory. In World War II, “Lakanuki” was a “disease” servicemen experiencedas they trained in Hawaii before being shipped out to the Pacific theater, and is an apt name for a ski town with its horrible male-female ratio.
And, Stu notes with a laugh, “A lot of wives like to get our shirts for their husbands.”
Stu’s favorite Tiki bars not named Lakanuki:
Try Frankie’s in Las Vegas. (Stu’s taken me there once). It’s a windowless dive on West Charleston and an easy find off the I-15.
Or, if you’re in southern California, try the Purple Orchid in El Segundo.
Sheet: Any final words on Lakanuki’s longevity? On your longevity?
Stu (laughing): I’ve aged. The Village has matured.